What's weird, though, is that on Saturday, the day before Mike "95 Percent" Pence got all the attention, The Post's Robert Costa reported that Trump was increasingly intrigued by someone with a very different background: retired Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn. Costa, who has been ahead of the game on Trump for more than a year now, spoke with people close to Trump who suggested that the killing of five policemen in Dallas and ongoing international concerns about terrorism demanded someone familiar with the security realm and the military.
Costa wrote: "The turn toward a military figure is being driven by Trump himself rather than by his advisers, the people said, and comes as the real estate mogul is telling his friends that national unrest may demand a 'tough and steady' presence alongside him on the ticket."
What Donald Trump is doing on the campaign trail
Did that change within 24 hours? How'd we go from "leaning toward a general" to "95 percent chance of Pence" over the span of a weekend? What's more, what happened to Newt Gingrich and Chris Christie leading the chase, as we reported on June 30 — only 11 days ago? Gingrich appeared at an event with Trump last week and enjoyed his own little boomlet of speculation, now faded. Why? And why, even as Pence was percolating, did ABC News revisit another former general as an option, Stanley McChrystal?
First of all, it's worth reading the first few paragraphs of the Washington Times' piece to learn the genesis of the "95 percent." James Bopp, an Indiana delegate to the Republican convention, said that the speaker of the Indiana House had sought counsel on running for governor, because he'd heard Pence was stepping down. Then Trump announced an event in Indiana with Pence, and that, Bopp said, "made it a 95 percent probability it’s Pence." So if you're confident in the statistical analysis of Indianan James Bopp, Pence is basically a sure thing.
But second, it's worth remembering whom we're dealing with. Consistency is not Donald Trump's strong suit — and, in fact, he considers one of his strong suits to be his inconsistency. As the New York Times reported in May, Trump serves as his own chief strategist and vetter. "Mr. Trump is reliant on information he garners himself," the paper's Ashley Parker and Maggie Haberman wrote then, "and can be swayed by the last person he talked to." It's probably not the case that Trump will change his mind as he walks out to deliver his acceptance speech for the nomination in Cleveland, thanks to a stagehand having approvingly mentioned Darrell Issa in passing — but such a twist would be less surprising coming from Trump than anyone else.
That Trump keeps his ever-shuffling cards so close to his chest also means that the cottage industry of Trump whisperers that has grown up over the past 12 months may not have as good a sense of what he's thinking as you might expect. A traditional political campaign goes out of its way to keep surrogates on the same page; Trump's campaign is a Schrodinger's box of possibilities that collapses into a unified opinion only once the candidate speaks (and even then, it's subject to change). Remember when Trump held a conference call with surrogates during which he told them to "throw out" instructions from his own campaign to step away from criticizing Judge Gonzalo Curiel?
Ben Carson has been out on the pundit circuit for months as a Trump supporter, despite repeatedly undermining the candidate and offering information that's later disavowed by the Trump team. Remember when Carson told The Post that Trump's list included John Kasich, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, Sarah Palin and Chris Christie? This was back when Carson was purportedly involved in Trump's vetting process. Either the list was not "possible vice presidents" but instead "people who are Republicans" — or Trump's list has changed dramatically.
Or maybe Carson was simply incorrect, which also seems possible. (Shortly afterward, his unclear relationship to the vetting team came to an end.) Or maybe the list had already changed between when Carson talked to The Post and when the story was published. All of these are possibilities.
There is a huge amount of interest in figuring out whom Trump will pick in part because of the huge amount of interest in Trump. More than most recent presidential candidates, there's a palpable sense that Trump could legitimately pick anyone to be his vice president. Combined with the campaign's lackadaisical efforts to keep surrogates on the same page and the decision being held solely by the quixotic candidate, it's not surprising that we've seen plenty of rumors and speculation.
Please note: We will not be updating this article as new rumors arise. We do have other work to do.